Atheists often object to christianity and other religions because they believe that if a all powerful and all good God existed he would not allow such suffering in the world. I contend that not only does the Christian model do more to explain the suffering in the world than Atheism, but it also explains suffering better than any other religious view, and here is why: we all desire that the suffering on earth is not only some day taken away and gotten rid of of, but also that there is some purpose or reason for that suffering.
If you have talked with Jehovah Witness’ for any period of time you know that many of their doctrines come directly from a society called The Watchtower. The society publishes all of the substantial content of Jehovah Witness’, there is no independent Jehovah Witness publications. As the authority for Jehovah Witness’ it claims to speak for God much like the prophets that we see in the Bible. So should we trust it? Well, it seems the best way to know would be testing them by the Biblical standard.
In Deuteronomy 18 we are told that if someone is a true prophet of God they will not prophecy anything that doesn’t come to pass or speak in the name of any other God. As for the second part of that test, Watchtower is on track, it claims to speak only for the God we see in the Bible. In the second part we run into a slew of problems as many of the predictions of the Watchtower have never come to pass.
Here are some predictions that the Watchtower has made in the past:
- Christ would come back in 1874
- The world would end in 1914
- Old Testament Saints would come to earth in 1925
- The world will end and Christ would come back in 1975
The Watchtower itself admits this predictions were wrong.
So, does the Watchtower stand to the test in Deuteronomy 18? Obviously not, even according to the Watchtower itself.
In fact the Watchtower even tried ‘correcting’ some of these predictions moving dates further out when they were wrong initially only to be wrong even a second time. Perhaps getting something wrong once could be a mistake of some sort, though the Biblical test says otherwise, but once it was wrong a second time we should be completely abandoning such a source as a reliable mouthpiece of God. If they made a ‘mistake’ about something as important as when Christ comes back why should we believe that they are not leading us astray in other doctrines that they teach?
Early Watchtower beliefs under one of the Jehovah Witness’ church fathers Charles Taze Russel actually believed the Ancient Pyramid of Egypt to be a sort of ‘Stone Bible’. It was believed measurements in the Pyramid were prophetic to the beginning of ‘the years of trouble’. The doctrine was taught to Jehovah Witness’ for fifty years from 1879-1928, after Russel was buried under a pyramid marked grave.
Russel’s successor flipped from calling the pyramid a ‘stone Bible’ to a work of the Egyptians under the influence of the Devil. Quite a flip for a group that should be speaking for God.
The Watchtower Society is very unorthodox in many beliefs. The Watchtower doesn’t believe Jesus is God, they reject the Trinity, regard blood transfusions sinful, celebrating birthdays as sinful and have changed vital words or added words to the Bible in their New World Translation. But given the obvious unreliability of Society I think we can steer clear from accepting any of these doctrines.
I’ve recently been in conversations with Jehovah Witnesses on a number of subjects. If you don’t know much about JW’s you probably still aren’t surprised to know that using the name ‘Jehovah’ for God is something that they find of great importance. So, I thought I would give a little background about the name to explore JW’s claim that we should only call God Jehovah.
A recent poll by CBS has shown that a large majority of democrats, 66%, believe that Christianity is just as violent as Islam. Among Independants 53% believed Christianity was just as violent and 25% of Republicans.
So one must ask, what makes so many Americans, 50% of them in total, believe that Islam and Christianity promote or contain the same level of violence? Here are a few of the reasons I believe that most people have come to that conclusion, and the reasons I believe that they are wrong to think so.
When people think of violence and religion, I think there is one thing that immediately pops into our minds, the crusades. No doubt both Muslims and Christians performed some horrible atrocities during this time, there is a reason modern history calls it the Dark Ages. But there is a few things that we should keep in mind in light of this horrible time in history.
First, who started it? Often times I think we are told in our history classes that Christians were the instigators of the Crusades. Muslims were living peacefully for years and then Christians decided to take what was never theirs to begin with. That’s not how it happened. Let’s remember that Christianity started in Jerusalem after Jesus death in 33A.D., Christianity rather literally and nonviolently took over the Roman Empire long before Muhammad appears on the scene in 594A.D. Muhammads predecessor Abu Bakr then attacked Jerusalem in 636A.D. So who started the Crusades? The Muslims.
Along that note, we can see Christians can view the crusades as trying to gain back land that was taken from them.
Second, it can easily be understood that it was the Christians who stopped the crusades, because in our modern era it was Islam who had control of Jerusalem when we gave Israel its sovereignty after WWII. If the Christians hadn’t stopped the crusades would never have stopped.
Furthermore, we no longer have Christians declaring Holy Wars and using their religion as justification. Within Islam we still have a small minority of Muslims declaring Jihad using Islam as their justification. I agree these Muslims do represent a minority of Muslims but that minority still consists of millions of people.
I must concede that perhaps these millions have twisted the words of the Quran to support what they believe. Religions are often used to justify the very things they were designed to be against. In that case it seems to make sense to look at the founders of Christianity and of Islam when talking of whether one is more violent than the other. Muhammad, was a clearly a military leader. He lead and participated in violent raids of merchants and after founding Islam went to war against the armies of Mecca on several occasions and approved of the slaughtering of Jews whom he believed deceived him in one of those battles. Jesus on the other hand told his followers to love and pray for their enemies. And died by the violence he never instigated.
The same can be said of their followers. The immediate leaders of Islam after Muhammad were violent warring leaders, case in point, Abu Bakr who attacked Jerusalem. The immediate followers of Jesus promoted peace and died as martyrs.
So is Christianity as violent as Islam? Lets look at the topics thus far:
- Islam started the crusades
- Christianity ended the crusades
- A large number (though a minority) of Muslims still believe in violent Holy Wars or Jihad
- Muhammad as founder of Islam was violent, while Jesus as the founder of Christianity promoted peace.
- The followers of Muhammad promoted Islam thru violence, the followers of Jesus promoted Christianity by dying for their convictions.
So are both religions equally violent? You decide.
Our culture today has become overtly focused on tolerance. In a way tolerance has become king, in the sense that if we do anything whether in action or deed that is viewed as intolerant we are encouraged, or even forced to abandon that belief or action in the name of tolerance. The odd thing missing from all of this, is how intolerant such a forced tolerance has become.
In Colorado Springs a Ratio Christi Chapter has been told by the University of Colorado that they cannot force their officers to have a profession of religious faith in the name of tolerance or ‘non-discrimination’. Similarly, Intervarsity has been told a similar thing by Vanderbilt University. In essence Universities are now telling religious organizations that they are allowed the benefits of being a recognized student organization so long as they have they accept all students even if a students goal is diametrically opposed to the organization. Keep in mind these organizations are not limiting students attending their organization if they have different views but simply does not allow them to be members or perhaps just not hold positions of leadership. Continue reading
This last weekend I was at an open house at the local Mosque here in Fort Collins. I was encouraged to see that there were many visitors who, like myself, clearly weren’t part of the Mosque ourselves. I think it is important that we are able to dialogue, communicate and fellowship with those who don’t believe in the same things that we do.
As the open house winded down I found that I was in a minority even among the visitors that day. They had a panel answering questions and dialoguing about interfaith relations when the Jewish leader that was a part of the panel dropped this bomb: “to say there is only one way to God is limiting to God.”
I was a little surprised by the comment. Not so much by the comment as much as I didn’t expect it to come from the Rabbi in the group. I more expected that the Universalist reverend on the panel to say a statement like that rather than the Rabbi. But it still had me thinking ‘Am I limiting God when I say that there is only one way to God?”
In short my answer to this as I think about is ‘no’. The fundamental thing that I think a statement like this is misunderstanding is that we decide the ways to God. When I say that I believe that there is only one way to God it isn’t because I’ve made it that way, it’s because God made it that way. I don’t say there is only one way to God because I want to limit God or that I believe God could only make one way, I say it because my understanding is that God has only made it that way.
When Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” it seems pretty clear that there is only one way. So am I limiting God? No. I am saying simply what God has said.
Could God have made it another way? My understanding of theology seems to say no, which is another subject entirely, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that God could have allowed more than one way to Him. If God could have made another way and yet as He says in John 14:6, he has only made one way to him, am I limiting God? No, I am not. God is limiting God. There is only one way to God. He has made that clear. It wasn’t my choice. I would even like to say that there is more than one way to God, but if that isn’t true I am not going to say it to make others feel better.
I often think that someone who says ‘we are limiting God by saying there is only one way to him’ are saying it because it doesn’t feel good. And they are right. I wish it was another way. But if a friend of mine wants to cross the highway where it isn’t safe and there is only one safe place to cross the highway do I let him cross where he wants to because he will feel good about it? Absolutely not! I could care less what makes him feel good, I would rather have him alive than happy and then dead, because I didn’t speak the truth because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.